That’s what comes to my mind each time I see a Great Blue Heron fly, especially when coming in for a landing. They are truly gangly – 4.5 to 5.5 lbs, 3.5′ to 4.5′ tall, and with a 5.5′ to 6.5′ wingspan. Gangly and beautiful in a dinosaurs-are-still-with-us kind of way.
They are a great conservation story as well. They were almost hunted to extinction for their plumage and as food (mostly egg gathering) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By the 1970s 50% of the wetlands, that provided Great Blue Heron habitat, in the US had been ‘put to more productive use’, i.e., drained and converted to agriculture or tract housing development. To add insult to injury, much of the remaining wetlands had toxic chemicals from the more ‘productive use’ leach into the ecosystems. In some parts of their range, 70% of the wading birds, including Great Blue Herons, succumbed to this double dose of habitat degradation.
This plight, especially plumage hunting, led to the formation of conservation societies, notably the state Audubon Societies, which led to the enactment of early conservation legislation, notably the Migratory Treaty Act of 1918.
Focused policies & programs have helped Great Blue Heron populations to stabilize and in some of their range increase between 1966 and 2014.
A great example of what we can do for biodiversity when we set our minds to it.
But. There are signs that the populations are once again declining because of continuing habitat loss to development.
It would be a shame if the sight of this awkwardly graceful icon once again became ‘uncommon’.